Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (PS4) Review

“Prison Break”

After my discovery of the Ys series with my first hands on experience with Ys VI on PC, I have been following the series closely. With its high intensity hack and slash action and stellar soundtrack, each and every new entry has been a delight to play through.

Coming off what I consider to be the best entry in the series to date in Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, Ys IX: MonstrumNox had a lot to live up to, and despite some notable shortcomings, it does an admirable job of pushing the series forward.

It’s been a whole two hours since we arrived and I can’t believe we didn’t get shipwrecked or thrown in jail, Adol. Oh look, that nice officer is coming over for a chat.

Fresh off the adventures at the Isle of Seiren, Adol and his trusty companion Dogi make their way to Balduq, a sprawling city known for its massive prison, looking for adventure.

As is often the case, Adol is immediately captured and thrown in prison for questioning, as Adol the Red is known for causing trouble wherever he goes. During a prison break, Adol encounters an enigmatic figure who curses Adol with a mysterious power that binds him to the city of Balduq as one of the Monstrums, fated to clash against a malicious force that threatens to consume the city in darkness.

While the early Ys titles were light on the story, focusing more on the gameplay elements, the latter titles and especially Ys VIII: Larimosa of Dana put a much heavier emphasis on the characterization and story, much to the benefit of the overall quality of the game, and the trend continues in Ys IX.

Even though I found the overarching story interesting and characters likeable enough, it didn’t quite hit the highs of its predecessor, as the big story reveals were fairly predictable. There was also an element where I was playing the role of a prisoner, looking for intel or running other errands, which were a bore and it seemed apparent that the developers knew that to be true as well, as I had the option to skip the segments entirely if I wanted to.

The characters are likeable enough but didn’t stray too far from typical archetypes.

As for the combat, Ys IX is as fast and fluid as one would expect for the series. Flash guard and step return once more, rewarding precision blocking/dodging respectively with 100% crits and invulnerability or slowing down time for a set duration, and are the key to victory during the tougher encounters. Assigning up to four skills to a character and being able to switch between three combatants with a press of a button with their respective strengths and weaknesses made me feel I had the right tools to handle any situation.

The more I used the skills in battle they would levelup, becoming more efficient, and I could go into boost mode which increased all my stats for a time, which I could extend by racking up damage in a short amount of time. Capping off the boost mode was a powerful EX attack that dealt a tremendous amount of damage at the cost of ending the boost mode when it’s used.

While most of this was carried over from Ys VIII, the unique character “Gifts” which are mastered through the course of the game could also be used in combat in conjunction with everything else, to great effect.

Gifts like being able to glide, run up walls, instantly grapple to key objects and more could be used in combat and were essential not only during exploration but also in boss encounters, which required the use of the proper abilities to overcome certain attacks/scenarios.

For example, the boss could engulf the entire battlefield in lava for a short time and I would have to find high ground, and as my foothold gave way, glide around the area until the lava dissipated. There were many situations just like this one, which made the fights more than just hacking away at a massive HP pool, which I found quite enjoyable.

Look ma! I’m Spiderman!

Outside of combat, the city of Balduq is massive and ripe with secrets to uncover. Thanks to the various gifts, there’s a sense of verticality to the levels the likes of which the series has never known. There is a sense of satisfaction in running up the wall of the tallest building in the city, zipping and gliding across rooftops looking for treasure. Unfortunately, while I liked how densely packed with secrets the city was, there is decidedly a downgrade in the variety of locations to explore, as the vast majority of the game takes place inside the walls of Balduq and its prison. This had the effect of making everything look the same, and the overwhelming grey color-scape quickly became dull. Luckily, there were some outside areas but they were few and far between, and given how much time is spent within the prison itself, there was simply too much backtracking for my tastes.

Adol’s sword of Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

From a performance standpoint, my entire playthrough was on the PS5, and despite some odd frame drops in cutscenes, it was a pleasant experience which felt locked at the target 60 FPS.

Unfortunately, there were some terrible crashing issues which had the game crash on me more than a dozen times, but since then they have put out a patch and I was able to test the game afterwards and can confirm that it’s in a much more stable form. I just wished I had played through it while it was stable myself as I had to re-do even the final boss and the ending multiple times just to get through the credits.

It can’t be a Falcom game review if not I’m plugging the soundtrack in some way.

Despite some pacing issues and repetitive level design, Ys IX: MonstrumNox is a worthwhile journey for Adol that pushes the series forward in the right direction by introducing a plethora of new gameplay elements that I hope to see expanded even further in the next adventure.

Fun Tidbit: I reinstalled Ys VIII on my PS5 after finishing Ys IX and it’s still just as good as I remember it!

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • Satisfying, fast paced hack and slash action
  • Fun and rewarding exploration
  • Great OST
  • Uninteresting visual level design
  • Too much backtracking through certain areas
  • Crashing issues on PS5 (mostly sorted after patch)
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.